Today, I’m super excited to say that Jo Perry, author of Dead Is Better is joining me on the blog for a little Q&A session!
Last month, I had the absolute pleasure of reading Dead Is Better thanks to Chris McVeigh at Fahrenheit Press. I’ll be posting my full review tomorrow so make sure to check back and have a read of my thoughts.
(Author pic from http://www.authorjoperry.com)
So, without further ado…
Welcome to Bibliophile Book Club and thanks for taking the time to answer some questions 🙂
First off, could you tell us a little about yourself?
I have a Ph.D. in English, taught writing and literature, wrote and produced television shows, have written articles and reviews, etc. I’m the mother of two grown children—one in chaplaincy school and the other in medical school. I live in Los Angeles with my husband, novelist Thomas Perry, and a quartet of rescue cats and dogs.
How did you begin writing?
I always wrote. Poetry mostly. My father was a comedy writer, so seeing him working at his typewriter was a normal part of life. I wrote academic stuff, too (my dissertation was on the representation of feeling in the novels of Samuel Richardson—yikes!), then t.v. scripts, then freelance stuff. I came to fiction late.
Your novel, Dead Is Better has been published before and now you’re with Fahrenheit Press, how did that come about?
My relationship with Fahrenheit Press was a completely weird, accidental, wonderful fluke. I discovered Fahrenheit Press on Twitter—loved the chinless skull––and checked out the website. More skulls! A smart, smartass, no bullshit modus operandi at work. Terrific books. A book club. Such energy.
So I sent off my sequel, DEAD IS BEST, with a very brief introductory note to Chris McVeigh, Fahrenheit Commander in Chief.
And to my delighted surprise–Fahrenheit was unlike other publishers. Those guys rarely answer queries in a timely manner (i.e. during your lifetime), and if they do agree to look at something, they demand all sorts of painful and time-devouring reformatting, word counting, font-changing, and then––if they do respond––it’s after a year or so and you‘ve forgotten all about them.
So imagine my shock when I heard from Chris rather promptly, and my amazement when I learned that he’d actually read my manuscript and was familiar with Dead Is Better.
So here we are. Fahrenheit Press is a miracle.
* (I should note here that Chris is blazing a trail through the publishing world lately, so much fun to watch on Twitter!)*
You have a follow up to Dead Is Better coming up, can you tell us about Dead Is Best? (I’ve read the start and I’m excited for it!)
Dead Is Best has Charles and the #deaddog Rose returning to the world of the living once again.
This time Charles is not searching for his own murderer as he was in Dead Is Better, but trying help his charm-free and spoiled step-daughter get out of trouble. Along the way, Charles must confront his failed marriage, his failure as a stepfather, and he must revisit the place he hates most on earth, the place he calls “Beverly Fucking Hills.”
Charles and Rose follow his stepdaughter into the American Southwest, where she becomes the victim of a vicious and lethal operation that preys on troubled teens. When things get truly terrible, the human ghost—with the help of his ghost dog and a few others ––must find a way to save her life.
Do you have any rituals or quirks when you wrote?! Favourite mug? Place to sit? Night or day?
I try to write every day. Having two dogs shapes my schedule. So after coffee and the morning walk, it’s time to write. More coffee is necessary. The mug doesn’t matter. There is usually a cat on the desk and a dog at my feet. Day is for writing; night is for reading. And martinis.
I know your husband, Thomas, is a Novelist also. Would you/have you thought about collaborating together on a book?
Yes, my husband is Thomas Perry. I love and admire his work. He’s known for his Butcher’s Boy series, his Jane Whitefield series and a number of terrific stand-alone thrillers and mysteries. While we collaborated successfully as television writers, I don’t think we could ever collaborate on a novel. We are very different writers. For one thing, my characters are dead and his are alive.
Did you find it difficult to get Dead Is Better noticed/published? It’s such an unusual theme, were people reluctant to publish it?
Yes. It’s a weird book––genre-bent or genre-mixed—whichever characterization you prefer––with unusual protagonists, a lot of darkness, humor and swearing. I suppose I didn’t realize how unusual the book was until I was told by one publisher that I had to get rid of the dog, that it wasn’t permissible to have a dead dog as a protagonist.
Another told me that I couldn’t write a book “that way.” That Dead Is Better wasn’t like other mysteries or crime novels and I’d better make it like them. Or else.
So many publishers have decided that it’s their job to zealously police the boundaries that separate mystery categories, i.e. noir, cozy, hard-boiled, pet detective, etc.
Dead Is Better doesn’t fit neatly into any of those slots.
Which is why I’m beyond lucky to have found a publisher who loves dead dogs as much as I do, who isn’t a member of the Genre Police, and who is interested in the reader’s experience more than anything else.
The plot for DIB is so well thought out, I know you said they happened to you, but how did Charles and Rose make you write the book?!
The truth is that I didn’t plan the book; Charles and Rose really and truly just happened to me. I suppose they were lurking in my subconscious for some time. I’d been thinking seriously and deeply about death, about cruelty, and how ineffective we are to stop it. Also, a few years before, a dog found me and changed my life in all sorts of small and powerful ways—the rhythm of my days, the way I looked at things, the way I felt.
One of my favourite things about the book (morbidity alert!!!) is the quotes relating to death at the start of the chapters. What made you decide to open the chapters with these quotes?
I like them. Also, they give the reader a break from the voice of the first-person narrator, Charles, and provide other voices. They let the reader come up for air every once in awhile. I also hope that funny and not always funny meditations on death bring Charles and the reader closer together.
If you wanted to tell future readers of your books anything about the book and the message it conveys, what would you tell them?
Hmmm. I guess the message is that we don’t know a fucking thing. About ourselves. About others. About anything. We think we do, but we don’t.
What are your own reading habits? I always assume writers are voracious readers so I’m always interested to know what books people read!
I always read my husband’s books, of course. They are part of my life and my mental landscape. For a long time I read mostly nonfiction, but I’m back to reading fiction, too. I confess to being a polyamorous reader; I read a number of books at once and have piles of them around. Recently I’ve really enjoyed Cat Warren’s What The Dog Knows, about the training of cadaver dogs; At Day’s Close: Night In Times Past by A Roger Ekirch—about night—it’s fascinating; I loved Grant Sutherland’s brooding and clever West of the City; and I’m really into Timothy Hallinan’s for the Dead, Lisa Brackman’s Dragon Day and James Craig’s A Slow Death—all brilliant and terrific and completely different.
Where can people find out more about you? Facebook/Twitter/Website?
I have a website: www.authorjoperry.com
Facebook: Jo Perry Author
I’m on Twitter: @JoPerryAuthor
Lastly, what question do you never get asked but with you did? And what would your answer be?
Funny you should ask this. I’m moderating a panel at Left Coast Crime (a crime writers’ convention) at the end of the month, and have been working on questions for the authors. One is, “What are you most afraid of? What fear do you force your protagonist to face?” The idea being—Are the author and his character fearful of the same things?
Death has its drawbacks, but the prospect of living forever scares the shit out of me.
But cruelty scares me, too. Where does it come from? Like love, it’s a mystery.
For my hero Charles, the greatest fear is failure—and that’s how he finds himself when the book opens, he’s a ghost who has pretty much fucked up his life.
For my canine heroine, # deaddog Rose, the fear is cruelty. She’s already faced this fear. Death has set her free.
Massive thanks to Jo for taking the time to answer my questions! 😊 If that doesn’t make you want to read Dead Is Better then I’ll leave you with Chris McVeigh’s thoughts on #DeadDog:
“So here’s the thing, everyone at Fahrenheit Press is in LOVE with the #DeadDog book. It’s smart, funny, sweary and just a lil’bit twisted. If all that doesn’t SCREAM Fahrenheit Press I don’t know what does. To be frank, if you don’t like this one we’re pretty sure your NOT our kinda people and we’re pretty sure we don’t want you in our gang. In fact if you buy this book and don’t enjoy it you can get a full 100% refund – the simple truth is, if you don’t like #DeadDog we don’t want your damn money.”
Check back here tomorrow for my review… 😊📖